It’s happened to all of us who have a chronic illness; we’ve made plans for the festive season or any other sociable time of year, for our bodies to fail us.
Flare-ups happen and they never happen at convenient times. If we could pick and choose when they happened that would be great. If we could choose to never have a flare-up again, even better.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that and it messes with your head when flare-ups happen. Do you power through and go to all the social events you’ve got planned? Do you stay at home and wistfully look through Instagram seeing all the fun your friends had without you? It’s hard to know what to do for the best because either way, you feel like you’re letting someone down.
I wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t. I’ve been on both sides when I’ve had a flare-up and neither of them is much fun.
Now I’ve got a list of things that I mentally run through when a flare-up happens at an inconvenient time and ideas for alternatives when I can’t go out.
1. Listen to Your Body
Only you know your body. Nobody else can tell you how you feel. If you think you can cope with going out for a few hours, go. You can always head back home if things start to get worse. If you can’t, stay home and rest. It’s no fun missing out but it’s even less fun being out when you physically can’t be out.
2. Be Kind to Yourself
One thing you need to try to do is to be kind to yourself. If you feel up to it, do something kind for yourself. It can be something as simple as a hot, relaxing bath or shower, doing your skincare routine, reading a book, playing a game you love. It doesn’t have to be anything big. It’s also okay to be kind to yourself by resting and sleeping. Rest is one of the best things you can do for your body.
I previously shared a post with a list of ways to be kind to yourself, when you’re dealing with Christmas Overwhelm. You can find it here and hopefully it’ll give you some ideas if you’re stuck for ways to be kind to yourself.
3. Stop Scrolling on Social Media
We’ve all done this, chronically ill or not, said no to an invitation and then spent the night looking on Instagram/Facebook to see photos of the brilliant time our friends are having without us. Don’t do it. I know, I know, easier said than done. It’s not going to make you feel great though so if you can limit your scrolling, it’s a start.
4. Schedule a Virtual Games/Movie Night
With some chronic illnesses, flare-ups can last a few days or a few months. If the latter is the case for you, try to schedule a virtual games night or an online movie night with your friends. You’re still able to do something fun and you don’t need to leave your house. You don’t even need to change out of your PJs if you don’t want to.
5. Find A Positive
Living with a chronic illness isn’t just physically difficult, it takes a toll on your mental health too. As silly as it sounds, try to find a positive about not being able to do what you’d planned. No matter how bad things are, finding one positive – no matter how small – can help to shift your perspective on the situation. If you are really struggling with your mental health and how your chronic illness impacts it, please reach out to someone. You are worthy of help.
6. Change your Internal Monologue
Now I don’t know about anyone else, but my internal monologue is awful sometimes. To the extent that if someone spoke to me the way I speak to myself sometimes, the someone would end up in tears. Over the years, I’ve berated myself for things I “should” be able to do or things I “need” to do when I’m having a flare-up.
My body has been through a lot. I’m at three laparoscopies and counting. Countless types of painkillers, anti-nausea medication, and far too many different types of artificial hormones. That’s not forgetting the months-long periods, being sick, and the internal bleeding that endometriosis can cause either.
The fact our bodies can survive whatever our chronic illnesses throw at them is pretty amazing when you think about it. We’re all still here, and able to function, mostly. Sometimes, we must do things a little differently and do less than “normal” because we physically can’t do more.
It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of mentally correcting my internal monologue, but now I try to use kinder language to myself. Berating my body doesn’t cure it, and it doesn’t help my mental state either when the flare-ups are bad.
Now I replace the word “should” with “could” and “need” with “like” when I feel like my monologue is getting a little catty. It’s not an easy process though and I still feel a little guilty for things I can’t do. I also still feel like a flake 60% of the time but that’s better than it was previously.
7. If you’re friends with someone who has a chronic illness…
I thought long and hard about putting this in the post but it’s important.
If you’re friends with someone who has a chronic illness, please don’t give up on them and stop inviting them out. It’s bad enough that we’re limited at times and we need to cancel plans without losing friends too.
Please be careful with what you say to us too. Your flippant remark about how your friend was fine yesterday isn’t helpful. If you don’t know what to say to your friend, just let them know you’re there if they need to talk and that you’ll check on them later. Sometimes just having someone to listen to you is all you need.
I hope this post has been helpful. Remember that you are not alone. If there’s a support group for your chronic illness, reach out to them if you need to talk to someone who understands.
Take care and stay safe,